Scales, Scales, Scales

In my experience, simply telling students to practice their scales doesn’t really work.  Without some sort of a framework, deadline, goal, etc., this valuable part of the routine is often neglected, resulting in sluggish technique, diminished range, and various other issues.  There are a number of great methods for systematically working on all the major and minor scales, like Arban’s Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet, and Schantl’s Grand Theoretical & Practical Method for the Valve Horn, to name a few.  Another excellent resource that I recently became aware of is Luciano L’Abbate’s Scales and Arpeggios for horn, published in 1995 by Phoenix Music Publications.  This is the same company that publishes – among other things – all of Kerry Turner’s music.  I couldn’t find much information about the author, although the website of the Italian Horn Club lists Mr. L’Abbate as one of two principal horns in the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana.  Perhaps someone out there has further biographical and career information on him.

Getting back to the scales book, it is very well organized and would make a great tool to ensure that students are fluent in all of their major and minor scales with arpeggios over a three octave range.  According to the editor, whose name is unfortunately not included in the text, “The book is divided into four main sections. The first and third sections contain (respectively) basic scale and arpeggio progressions in all of the Major and Minor Keys. The second section contains scale progressions which can be played in all of the Major Keys. The final section lists variations of arpeggios in chromatic progression, again through all of the Major Keys” p. 2.  Most of the scale exercises are quite standard, although dynamic, tempo, and articulation markings have been intentionally omitted so that the student can vary these parameters for a more thorough workout.  The arpeggio exercises include interesting rhythmic patterns – like quintuplets – which should keep even advanced students on their toes. One possible framework for using the book would be to cover one major key (with relative minor) from the first section and the corresponding arpeggios from the third section each week.  Each major/minor scale “unit” should be easily manageable, and every key could be covered by the end of a fifteen-week semester, with room to spare.  This schedule could also be extended over two semesters by alternating work on major and minor keys (with arpeggios).  Additionally, the second section – which is to be played in all of the major keys – could be used very effectively as a tool for teaching transposition.  All in all, this 84 page text is a very nice resource, and at around $25 is a real bargain – I purchased my copy from Pope Instrument Repair.

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